It’s once again time for the Dakar and we thought we’d give you a quick overview of motorsport’s toughest event. Known across the globe as the most grueling off-road race in the world, the Dakar kicks off today in Asuncion, Paraguay. Stage one’s 454 kilometers (282 miles) is just a mere dent in the marathon course that lies ahead. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know …
Bib No.1 will be adorned by Australian Toby Price, who last year became the first Australian to win the Dakar as he proved victorious in the motorcycle category. He won five stages in all, was 40 minutes ahead of his closest rival, and is the only person to win the event on only his second attempt. Definitely keep an eye on him this year.
Nasser al-Attiyah, shown above, won two stages last year in the Dakar car category, one more than the number of medals he has won at the Summer Olympics, for which he has a shooting bronze from London. But sticking to twos, it is the number of times he has won Dakar and also his position in last year’s race come the finish.
This year’s event will pass through a total of three countries in South America: Paraguay (where it starts), Bolivia, and Argentina, (where the race ends). Jutta Kleinschmidt was the first and still only female winner of the Dakar. She was victorious in the four wheel category in 2001. However, she got her start racing motorcycles. Her first race was in 1988 on a BMW. She moved to four wheels in 1994.
Stage five of this year’s race is in the heart of the Bolivia Altiplano where the Andes are at their wildest. Outside of Tibet, it is the most extensive high plateau on earth. Two brutal sand dune sections will provide an ultimate test for those that still in the race.
Last year, there were 18 Red Bull entries, or Desert Wings, who took to the start line. At the finish line two weeks later, six were among the podium finishers. The entourage that now supports the Dakar race is absolutely enormous. The race is followed and filmed from above by a total of seven helicopters. In addition, there is a field hospital, an air ambulance, and 60 nursing staff on hand in case of any emergencies.
The 2016 running of the Dakar was the eighth successive year in which the rally was run in South America. The race moved to South America in 2009 because of safety fears in parts of Africa. Traditionally, its route – from its inception in 1979 – had been from Paris to Dakar, although the French capital last hosted the race start in 2001.
There are no shortage of motorsports royalty in the starting line-up for this year’s Dakar. Perhaps the most notable among them is Sebastien Loeb, who is making his second attempt at the race. Loeb is best known for his years in the World Rally Championship in which he won nine titles. He also finished ninth overall last year on his Dakar debut.
The tightest ever margin of victory on the Dakar was just two minutes and 12 seconds back in 2010. That year, Carlos Sainz edged out al-Attiyah in a nail-biting finale. Red Bull athletes enjoyed a stunning Dakar in 2016. They won 11 out of 13 stages and 91% of the time they were on the podium.
Stephane Peterhansel, shown above, won the car event last year and boasts an astonishing 12 overall Dakar victories. He was once the dominant force in the motorbike class in which he won six times before switching to cars and emulating that number of wins. We can’t wait to see how this year’s race shakes out …
Images courtesy of Red Bull Media House